3 ways to get you smelling better in the backcountry

Dude, what stinks? Let’s just make sure the answer to that question is not you.

“I carry two pairs of socks and underwear: one for camp and one for when I’m on the trail,” says mountaineer Jon Kedrowski, who has spent the night on all 55 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks.

“When I arrive at my camp, I’ll take the gross and sweaty pair of underwear and socks off, wipe down with a ‘wet wipes bath’ and put the clean pair on.

On glaciers, I find a stream in the warm afternoon sun and rinse my socks and underwear thoroughly. I hang them in the sun to dry. The next morning, I’ll take off my clean pair of socks and underwear and put on the original rinsed and dried pair and continue the cycles.”

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Thanks for offering to do the laundry, babe. That better not be Tide. Photo: Courtesy of Maridav/Shutterstock
Whether it’s after days of roughing it in the backcountry or a quick morning mountain bike ride, there’s no shortage of clever and portable solutions to your biggest outdoor odor issues.

Stink: You need to go straight from the trail to the office

A Tough Mudder participant rocks his below-the-belt wipes —a quick shower substitute on the way to work, too. Photo: Courtesy of GoodWipes

Solution: When you’ve hauled your butt out of bed to get in that workout or make it to the summit for sunrise, you don’t have the time or energy to drive home for a shower. Luckily, there are some seriously effective and environmentally friendly options for your trailside Clark Kent.

I’m currently sold on GoodWipes, which offer convenient, flushable girl (and guy) specific pH-balanced cleansing cloths — one big, durable one for “up there,” and one petite, flushable one for “down there.” T

he pungent tea-tree-oil-dominant scent took some getting used to, but now I’m hooked.

Your favorite athletic or camping store will have a variety of these sport wipes, but, remember, in this case, bigger may be better. The average gas-station moist towelette won’t do the trick on your nastiest parts while still giving you enough real estate for the rest of your body.

Stink: After three days of camping, you have confirmed that, indeed, your sh*t does stink

Solution: First, air it all out: your tent, your sleeping bag, your clothes. Please don’t let your stinkiest stuff fester in a sun-warmed tent, growing moldier and more foul by the minute.

Second, bring some natural spray to at least help mask the worst of it. (I make a simple lavender-based tent mister for next to nothing.)

Third, when it comes to the sheer necessity of bathing in or near the backcountry, creeks are lovely a) if they’re accessible, and b) if you don’t defile them by dousing a clear mountain stream with a bucket full of Campsuds.

Here’s where you have a choice. Go old-school with a classic like the camp shower for a sun-warmed, gravity-fed dousing the politically correct 200 yards from a body of water, or new school with the comically effective Srubba backpack washing machine for all the clothes you’ve already stunk up.

Stink: Your outdoor clothes already smell awful before you get to the trailhead

Solution: It’s pretty tough to ward off the stench of new sweat and grime when the armpit of your T-shirt is already odoriffic.

Not sure? Next time you wash, give that puppy the smell test after it comes out of the washer or dryer. You might be shocked.

In this case, you can a) pitch your oldest shirts and start fresh with a high-performance, fast-drying, lightweight synthetic fabric or naturally wicking material like wool, or b) add something to your laundry to suck out the stench before your next activity.

I tried a Febreze in-wash odor eliminator that seemed to do the trick, but there are also de-stinking sprays that allow you to pinpoint a specific raunchy area (you know the ones) as a “pre-wash” — even smart, biodegradable base-layer cleaners that attack the stuff that sits closest to the skin.

There you have it: no matter your offense, you’ve got a defense. No one has to hike alone, after all.

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